Should you get a flu vaccine?
Less than half of the U.S. population actually gets the annual flu vaccine. While vaccinations are recommended in late summer or early fall, it’s still beneficial even in the middle of winter. During many flu seasons, influenza activity doesn’t peak until winter or early spring. In fact, virus activity peaked in February or later in approximately half of the past 35 flu seasons.
As an Olympic gold medalist figure skater, author, wife, mother and philanthropist, the always busy Kristi Yamaguchi knows that to keep your body healthy it’s important to rest, eat a well balanced diet, and exercise. “Being a skater, I was skating in competitions through flu season so we had to be protected,” she recalls. “I remember having the flu once when I was a teenager, but my mom was always very good at getting us vaccinated.”
“Vaccine experts agree that everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu vaccine,” says Dr. Daniel Haight, director of the Polk County Health Department. “It’s never too late to immunize. The flu season in Florida peaks in February, so there is still time to protect yourself and your family from the flu and its potentially serious complications.”
Flu vaccinations are the most effective way to prevent the contagious disease which can cause fever or chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and – in some cases – vomiting and diarrhea. In more serious instances, flu can lead to death.
Kristi Yamaguchi is encouraging folks to get the vaccine in her role as a spokesperson for the American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza initiative. The initiative provides information and stories about those who have been affected by the virus, such as Linda DeLude’s husband, Barry, who was her high school sweetheart, her best friend, the father of her 2 sons, and the man she called her soul mate. He also was a firefighter for 20 years. Unfortunately, he contracted the virus and died from the disease a few days after his trip to the hospital. And there’s the Jackson family who lost their three-month old son to the illness.
The recommendation to immunize “is supported by evidence that influenza vaccination is a safe, preventive health measure with potential benefit across all age groups,” Dr. Haight says.
Among those most prone to complications include children aged 6 months to 4 years old, and people 50 and older, as well as those with chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular, renal, hepatic, neurologic, hematologic, or metabolic disorders, those who are immunosuppressed, pregnant women, and nursing home residents.
Vaccines can be administered by nasal spray for those aged 2-49 years who are not pregnant and by injection for those aged 18 through 64 in 2011, he says. The most common reaction is tenderness where the shot was administered. “While uncomfortable, this reaction lasts a very short time, and should not discourage people from getting the vaccine, which may help them avoid a potentially serious case of the flu,” Dr Haight adds.
story by LISA IANNUCCI and CHERYL ROGERS